That time we hiked up Mt. Washington,
fog clung to us like a wet sheet.  

Trail cairns along the ridgeline vanished.
We nearly lost each other. You reached out

for my hand; map and guidebook, useless
in this rough country. Ravines cut by glaciers

snow poised for avalanche. One
unthinking step could bring it down. 

Water droplets needled us. 
We crept hand in hand, mystified

within the forest’s mossy scent.
Close by, a brook roared,

or was it the highway? Clouds
drifted in, then up. A sign

pointed the route down, Lion’s Head. 
Trail’s end, or mirage? We shimmied

and slid down icy rocks.
Two split logs formed a bridge. 

                                           ~ M.T. Venti


Why I Dream of the Galapagos Islands


In fifth grade, I was tall

in the back of the classroom the windows

cut sunlight into squares on the floor. 


Covering one blackboard, geography maps

as big as the sheets

on my mother’s clothesline.


Sister Gabriel brandished a yardstick at Spain.

Outside on Pontoosuc Avenue city workers dug and filled a hole,

women pushed baby carriages,


cars stopped at the crosswalk. History is a series

of sailing ships plying flat oceans

                                    toward an unreachable horizon.


The Aztecs thought Cortez was Quetzalcoatl.

My mother was having another baby. I ironed and watched my sisters. 

Explorers splashed up on rocky coasts


guided by smoke curling from volcanoes.

Charles Darwin guessed the little finches’ secret. 

God had no plan.


Extra points for good penmanship, 

for daydreaming

ten whacks on the outstretched palm.


In the emergency room nurses shouted,

doors swung violently,

                                    me, with my sisters.


The Chaplin baptized our baby brother

in everlasting happiness. How small

the white coffin my father chose.


You have your own little saint, Sister Gabriel

would tell me later. 

In the bible story


God won his wager with Satan

and rewarded Job with replacement children. Years,

like the little islands, stepping-stones.



               ~M.T. Venti 





On bright days I am bewitched.
Sea too green, blank sun,
      reflection of a reflection,
      a place light turns inside itself.

      Islands abandoned to their verdure.
      Sailboats on gray horizons,
kindred clusters of little moth wings
flutter and bow toward the east.

A scorching vision.
I feel the solar wind on my skin.
      Ocean gulps and spits.
      Whirlpooling about, crashing,

      buoys like popped corks,
      channel markers toll.
At last, free to plummet.
Waves obscure applause,

sailors deflate, wings dissolve.
Armada to the party. Up
      down, luck, fluke, floating,
      pulled, the weight of expectation,

      brooding, like Icarus,
      his sunless sea deep as years.

                                          ~ M.T. Venti



Just before sunrise,        
the moon in mid-arc over
mountain ridges. Air

thin and sharp. Black ice               
coats the deck a dull sheen
that cracks under footsteps.

Snows tinge the tallest bald peaks
a pale yellow. Gray trees,
trails glisten, white rivulets.

Frost crystallizes narrow roads,
pinches village houses. 
Streetlights falter. 

The bird feeder hangs
stiff, a fox’s frozen track zigzags
into woods. Nothing moves, 

except steam from my coffee cup.

                                          ~ M.T. Venti